10 things about: Isaac Hou, the Lord of the Ring!

Picture by K.E.Ooi
Picture by K.E.Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 30 — Dubbed as the real-life Lord of the Ring, 35-year-old Isaac Hou has been rolling around all over the world inside a Cyr wheel, garnering awe and international acclaim wherever he goes.

The American-born Taiwanese did not always want to become a street performer or a performer of any sort but somehow picked it up when he decided to travel the world at 18.

One day, he stumbled onto a video of a performer on a Cyr wheel and he decided he wanted to master the art of rotating and rolling around in the wheel.

The Cyr wheel is a large metal ring — big enough to fit an adult human — that can rotate gyroscopically with the performer inside it.

It may look easy but it was not an easy skill to learn as it took Hou a couple years to learn it before he dared to perform publicly.

It was also different from his previous street performance — a fire show — which was illegal in most places. But Hou wanted to do something different and the giant metal ring became his signature performance along with the manoeuvring of a crystal ball.

Here, Hou, talks about his life as a street performer and how he sometimes wishes to go back and continue studying for a degree. In his own words:

  • Initially I didn’t pick up performing as a career, I thought I would just have some fun while I was young and play around a little bit. When I was a teenager, I wanted to travel. I grew up in America and the idea of living somewhere other than America, learning another language, doing other things seemed really fantastic.
  • I got a job cleaning a hotel and I got £10 (RM64.1) a day and I got to stay at the hotel’s youth hostel. I got a friend who’s doing the fire show, she got like £100 a day. I was like, wow, that’s much better than what I’m doing. I should be doing that. From the time I had that idea to the time I was actually able to earn any money from it actually took a while. That was 16 years ago, I was 18 or 19 at that time. Even then, my parents weren’t super happy about what I was doing.
  • I have a good relationship with my parents now. There was a lot of culture clash. I think, it was very hard for my parents. When I was maybe three, they decided to speak English to us. My brother was going to kindergarten, he was in a reading class for the slow kids. So, my parents thought it’s hard to speak so many languages so they decided to just speak only English. So, I didn’t grow up speaking Chinese.
  • My parents’ English isn’t that good so it’s kind of a crazy idea, I think. I mean, their English is very functional but to be able to express themselves is really something else. So, there was always a lot of miscommunications between me and my parents. It’s something I didn’t really understand until I learned another language, I lived in another society, I started to understand the language problem that my family had.
  • When I was in Sweden, I saw that they had a circus school in Europe and I didn’t know there was such a thing as circus school. So I thought I’ll just take one year and go to circus school before I go to university. So I went to the circus school in Denmark. When I was in Denmark, I had a partner at the time. We decided to go to Russia to train in a school in Russia and it didn’t work very well.
  • So, I thought I’d try to go back to Taiwan and hang out there for a while and try to save some money teaching English and try to figure out the next step, if I want to go back to Sweden or try to go back to school in US.
  • I did gymnastics and kungfu when I was a kid. I’ve been doing this more than 10 years now. I went to Canada to learn the Cyr wheel. Performing and training are very different but I like both of them. I do a lot of physical training, training techniques and stuff. I try to make the connection with the audience when performing. That’s why I enjoy most doing “live” performances.
  • I had a hard time learning the Cyr wheel. I didn’t really know what I was doing with the Cyr wheel in the beginning. I had seen videos of the Cyr wheel, it was called Cyr wheel because a man named Daniel Cyr popularised it, he actually more or less invented it.
  • So I made a wheel, the first wheel I made was a piece of metal that I bent and welded and I rode around on the concrete floor and it was really slippery. It was kind of crazy that I learned like that. But I didn’t know any better, I thought that’s what you do. It’s actually pretty similar to what Daniel Cyr did, he just bent a metal and ride it around. He did it for several years and figured out to put PVC on it to make it work better. For me, it took me six months before I thought this is kind of going somewhere and I went to Montreal and learnt.
  • This sounds completely ridiculous but sometimes I think about going back to school, try to do science or something like that. It seems really late or ridiculous. Sometimes I still read a lot of this layman science books and something like that. I think for me, that’s more interesting than doing business.